My brother’s keeper

I looked to the left of the gas station and saw the man. I thought he was part of the lawn mowing crew that was cleaning the property. He looked like he might have passed out in the sun. I knocked on the car window to let my wife know, I was thinking that we were going to need to call 911. 

When I looked closer, though, I realized he wasn’t part of the crew and he wasn’t in medical need, he was homeless. His jeans looked smeared with dirt, and he was lying on a long piece of cardboard with his hands over his face, trying to keep the glare of he sun out of his eyes. 

I couldn’t help but shake my head at the irony of the situation. A few minutes earlier, we were in an elegant Florida hotel. Everything was sparkling and baby-fresh clean. We had a concierge at our beck and call. We slept in a warm bed, with air conditioning set at approximately 68 degrees. Before leaving to come back home, we celebrated with an overpriced, overcooked breakfast.

I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure the man had none of those extravagances.  

The United States Council on Homelessness estimates that there are over half a million people in the U.S. experiencing homelessness, living in temporary shelter or transitional housing or in places not meant for habitation, like abandoned buildings. They list out the top four causes of homelessness as the lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, and low wages.

While the numbers give some context, homelessness and poverty exist everywhere — big towns, rural vistas, and everywhere in between. The small-town kid in me though is still surprised when I see homelessness and wealth in such striking contrasts, right next to each other. 

I thought about the man as we boarded our plane to head back home. I was still thinking about him when the passenger in front of me was complaining because she didn’t like the choice of crackers and soda that the flight attendant offered and the man I suspect wasn’t even sure when he might eat again.

When I got home, I made an extra year-end contribution to a local agency that helps fight homelessness, but there’s no moral to this story. I don’t have a funny punch line or a solution that solves everything and wraps it up in tidy bow. With Christmas coming in a few days, my blog is just a call for us all to do better to help our neighbors.

I like to think that we’re all God’s children and deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. Whether you’re religious or not, we all deserve better. 

25 thoughts on “My brother’s keeper

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  1. Thank you for your post, Brian. You described the tug and heartache…seeing affluence everywhere pitted against poverty…and how important it is to consider our good fortune and respond – in whatever way we can to be of service and support another human in need. Kudos to you. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is sad to see that this is prevalent both sides of the Atlantic, Brian. As you say, no matter what our circumstances we should always treat each other with dignity and respect. This time of year always seems harder for those less fortunate. If we can do one thing for someone else it will help to make the world a better place.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. “I like to think that we’re all God’s children and deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. Whether you’re religious or not, we all deserve better.” – So very true, Brian. Thanks for the lovely story to remind us all what that looks like in this day and age!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s such a sad and often shocking situation, Brian. It’s the same over here. We have homeless men and some women sleeping in sleeping bags outside or in the doorways of the expensive shops in town, no doubt, with the hope of getting some cash from the affluent shoppers and passers-by. A total contrast between the rich or even average people and the homeless guys and girls. They’ve even pitched tents on the waste ground along the riverbanks. It must be freezing out there in the winter. I think how much we complain about the cold weather when we’ve got homes and warm clothes. If I see someone on the streets, I sometimes stop to have a chat with them as they tell me their story and how they ended up in that situation. Occasionally, I’ll buy them a hot drink and a sandwich or burger. So many people walk past without making eye contact as if they weren’t human beings. They have feelings and life stories like the rest of us. Thank you for raising this important topic, Brian. It is something that should be out in the open for all to realise.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Cool.

    Give more.

    Volunteer more.

    Raise awareness…

    And if you or any of your readers wish to discuss this stuff at any more depth, please swing by Fat Beggars! We have a whole blog mostly devoted to Homeless vis-a-vis the church.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is so well-written and concise. The main point is easy to discern. Not all poverty comes from external circumstances. Two main points I believe that are overlooked are people with mental illness and others with addictions that family members have realized make their homes dangerous.

    This is not to say that we just forget about the homeless. But establishing holistic ministries that could get people onto the right track runs into the headwinds of judgments and gossip from the very institution that should be leading in establishing holistic ministries – THE CHURCH.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There’s a lot to unpack here JW and I certainly am no expert on homelessness. You’re right not all poverty comes from external circumstances. I would agree too that holistic solutions are needed. My main point was that in a seasoned focused so heavily on commercialism that we not forget those struggling to get by. The how is obviously the tough part! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of answers. I just felt I needed to make a heart felt request. I suspect too it was being in a different city than I am normally and seeing the homeless in the middle of a joyous time (Christmas) . . . I just keep thinking of what my mother used to lecture me as a kid, when you’re blessed, you share with those who have less. Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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